I distinctly remember believing, albeit briefly, that Jack and Meg White were actually brother and sister. Other than the fact that my mom never had a crush on either of them, they were like Donnie and Marie Osmond — but without the sexual tension and with matching outfits that were somehow actually cool. If I wore that much red and black, I’d look like a serial killer or a Hot Topic employee. Everything about them was intrinsically cool, even the bizarre fact that they turned out to be not only unrelated but formerly married, then divorced, then best friends, then reclusive, then, most recently, disbanded.
Soon, I will attempt to convince you that this last part is not a bad thing.
I found out about the demise of The White Stripes the afternoon of Feb. 2 in a text message from my little sister, a belated fan who calls herself one of their Candy Cane Children and cites them as her favorite band. Last Christmas, I gave her a White Stripes mobile to hang from her ceiling. This Christmas, I bought her a live DVD. For her, Feb. 2 will be better known as the day the music died.
The only problem: As has been pointed out by writers all across the blogosphere, The White Stripes were already dead. After the fever surrounding the release of "Icky Thump" in 2007 came to a lull, they were all but The Black Stripes. Meg’s much-mentioned battle with anxiety aside, Jack already had more inferior side projects than one erstwhile rock frontman should be allowed to maintain. I won’t blame this on The Raconteurs, but I will give them a small stink eye. For all intents and purposes, three years of silence is an easy transition into an eternity of it, and the clock was ticking loudly for the Stripes. The last time you heard something about them, you probably also wondered what had happened to them. Come Feb. 2, I’d be willing to bet that though lots of people cared, few were too surprised.
But almost everyone was upset. Of the two emotions, this is maybe the most understandable but definitely the least necessary. If your favorite band dies, part of you dies with it until — no more than six months later — the relief comes. You still have the memories, but you need no longer live in fear of rumors about some upcoming “surprising musical turn” in the band’s career. Sure, it could be a fifth member, but it could also be a name change. And, oh God, what if it’s a concept album? About giraffes.
In the future.
I’ll admit that with The White Stripes, the chances of this were pretty slim, but as creative geniuses age, the chances increase that they will become crazy geniuses and then just legitimately crazy. Have you seen recent footage of Axl Rose? Did you see Slash at the Super Bowl? I didn’t, but I heard he was the one Fergie grinded on as she sassily butchered his life’s work. Cover up the top hat and travel to the future, and you run the risk that your favorite guitarist could be in that picture. Realistically, this is only one of the risks that come with intense appreciation (read: obsession) of a classic band (to you, this is whichever you call your favorite).
For me, there has not been just one day the music died, but roughly 1 million. My favorite band, the British rock group Oasis, might have reached its peak in the ’90s, if you believe certain lies popularized by well-established music critics, but that doesn’t mean it stopped teasing its fans in the same decade. Since I have loved the band, it has broken up twice, gotten back together once and been rumored to have broken up more times than it has two-disc greatest hits albums. If you doubt my sincerity in persuading you not to despair, pay attention.
As of the time I write this, Oasis is still broken up, and I doubt very much that the band will reunite. Its two frontmen, brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher, are more mercurial than Jeremy Piven’s sushi, and though I prefer them together, the most likely side effect is fratricide. They announced their most recent losing battle with hatred very close to my birthday, which led to my musical depression and the replaying of their live bootlegs incessantly for about two months. But as I mentioned earlier, I am not new to their brotherly antics. I have an Oasis tattoo. The last time they broke up, I wore black for a week. I used to make shirts on the Gallaghers’ birthdays, but since they accidentally ruined mine, I have accidentally forgotten about the tradition.
Cue the relief: I will defend the Gallaghers until they kill each other, but I’d rather not have to defend another B-sides album. If they publicly badmouth another band that I used to enjoy, I will run out of bands to enjoy. I will probably be hung up to dry on their website’s discussion boards for saying this, but I can breathe more easily now that the only rumors surrounding them are about solo projects. And if you somehow find this article, Oasisgurl101, I’m not afraid of you.
The news of The White Stripes’ demise is painful, but the Stripes put it best themselves on ThirdManRecords.com when they wrote that they broke up “to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way.” They will never perform at the Super Bowl, write a TV series intro or perform drunk on stage in front of thousands of people. (One of those three happened to Oasis.) And you are no less of a superfan for breathing a sigh. Your own tattoos are more legit, as are your T-shirts and any previously premature references to “the good old days.” Your favorite band is dead. The real fun comes in mourning it.
Kelsey Whipple is the editor of Vox. She has snuck Oasis mentions into many of her columns, but none quite as obviously as this one.